Popular Painkiller Could Become the Next Add-On Cancer Treatment

January 12, 2016
Caitlyn Fitzpatrick

Diclofenac is a common wallet-friendly painkiller; but it may also be just the boost cancer treatments need for better outcomes.

Diclofenac is a common wallet-friendly painkiller; but it may also be just the boost cancer treatments need for better outcomes.

Diclofenac is a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) used for pain associated with migraine, fever, rheumatoid arthritis, acute gout, and post-surgery. NSAIDs have shown to be a promising approach for cancer prevention, and now international researchers from the Repurposing Drugs in Oncology (ReDO) project found that the medication may be a novel approach to enhancing chemotherapy and radiotherapy.

“It’s still somewhat surprising that there is still so much we don’t understand about how many of the standard drugs we use every day, like diclofenac, work,” Pan Pantziarka, PhD, a member of the ReDO project and the Anticancer Fund, said in a news release.

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Studying the effects of NSAIDs in cancer cells in vitro dates back to 1994. Researchers examined in vivo in colorectal cancer and found that when in used in combination with hyaluronan, topical application of 6 mg/kg diclofenac stopped tumor growth in rat models. Diclofenac showed to reduce ovarian cancer cells as well, and similar results appeared in other cancers such as pancreatic, according to the report in ecancermedicalscience.

The findings are not to say that diclofenac is the be-all, end-all drug against cancer. As Pantziarka explained, “But the more we learn, the more we can see that these drugs are multi-targeted agents with interesting and useful effects on multiple pathways of interest in oncology.”

In terms of exactly why diclofenac could be an effective method against different cancers, the authors are not quite sure. They know that metastatic disease is often times the condition that leads to death, as opposed to the original disease. So it’s fair to say that NSAIDs may be able to tackle the metastases before they appear.

“It may also be that diclofenac may have actions which synergize with the latest generation of checkpoint inhibitors — the combination of the latest drugs in the anticancer armoury with some of the oldest is especially exciting,” Pantziarka concluded.

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